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Mrs. Malory and the Fatal Legacy: A Sheila Malory Mystery    by Hazel Holt order for
Mrs. Malory and the Fatal Legacy
by Hazel Holt
Order:  USA  Can
Signet, 2000 (2000)

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* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Mrs. Malory and the Fatal Legacy joins 9 previous Sheila Malory mysteries by British mystery writer Hazel Holt. Their protagonist is a middle-aged widow living in a small town with her grown lawyer son. She makes use of her history background to write biographies of Victorian writers. As the book opens, she goes to a party where her old Cambridge friend, the acclaimed writer Dame Elizabeth Blackmore, is guest of honor. Beth confides to Sheila that she is troubled by her difficult relationship with her two adult children. Sheila is astounded to read shortly afterwards that Beth has been found dead in her country cottage, apparently due to a mixup in her medication. It is an even bigger surprise to discover that Beth has named her as literary executor.

Once Sheila starts looking into Beth's papers, she learns of several secrets within Beth's life and family. Soon afterwards a young American woman who has come to England to write a scholarly paper on Beth, is run down in a hit and run accident soon after she starts looking into Beth's papers. Then the newspapers report that Beth's husband's business is in dire financial straits. Sheila becomes more and more convinced that both deaths (Beth's and that of the young American academic) were not accidents, since there are quite a few people who could benefit from Dame Blackmore's estate.

As a new reader to the series, I cannot comment on the merits of its previous entries. This one however, while a serviceable enough mystery with a decent plot, seems a bit 'black and white' and without the excitement and memorable characters of a 'full color' mystery. While Sheila Malory may have been more fully-fleshed in previous episodes, it is hard to get a real sense of her in this one. Of course, for Anglophiles such as myself, the English settings (including both London and Cambridge) and sensibility may be sufficiently satisfying.

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